2 High School Coaches Charged with Murder After Student Dies of Heat Stroke

Two high school coaches have been charged with murder and child cruelty by a grand jury nearly two years after the heat-related death of a Georgia basketball player, the Associated Press reported.

On August 13, 2019, Imani Bell, a 16-year-old junior at Elite Scholars Academy in Clayton County, collapsed running up the football stadium steps during required conditioning drills. The temperature was in the high 90s with a heat index of 103 degrees.

Larosa Walker-Asekere and Dwight Palmer were arrested last month and indicted on counts of second-degree murder, second-degree child cruelty, involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct by the Atlanta-area grand jury, according to news reports and court records.

Justin Miller, an attorney for Bell's family, told WSB-TV: "The assistant coach saw Imani struggling and how hot it was and did not stop the practice."

Eric Bell, the girl's father, said he wanted both coaches held responsible for her death. Miller told the news station that coaches do not usually face charges in these cases.

"This is only the second time in history a coach has been charged in this way and the first time a coach has ever been charged with murder," he said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Basketball coaches charged
Two high school basketball coaches were charged with murder by a Georgia grand jury in connection with the death of a basketball student nearly two years after she died from heat stroke. Getty Images

Imani died later that day of heat-related cardiac arrest and kidney failure, according to the suit.

Miller said Tuesday that the indictment "sends a signal that the DA is taking this seriously." His office had received a copy of it.

But he added that he wants to see the case move ahead "swiftly."

"The point of the case is the prosecution, not just the charges," he said.

Miller identified Walker-Asekere as the head basketball coach and Palmer as an assistant, and he said both were on site at the time and in charge of the children.

Court records do not list an attorney for either defendant, and Clayton County prosecutors did not immediately return an email seeking that information and details about the indictment.

Messages for attorneys listed for Walker-Asekere in a separate case were also not immediately returned.

The family's lawsuit says school officials violated a Georgia High School Association rule banning outdoor practices in weather conditions such as those that Imani faced. It also says they never properly measured the temperature in advance.

The school district declined comment.

Coaches arrested
Two coaches were charged with murder and child cruelty in connection with the death of a high school basketball player in Georgia in 2019. Getty Images